A single act of kindness can light up a dark day. Recently two strangers, different as snowflakes, met each other on the street. They could have easily passed on without a word, but a kind offer changed everything. Here is the story my friend Leslie shared with me…
Stuck in the Cold and Dark
In February 2021, almost a year into COVID-19, the power went out in my neighborhood during an ice storm. I was literally alone in the dark for days, a pod of one during this COVID time.There was almost two feet of snow in drifts against my house, covered by a few inches of ice. I hadn’t been able to get out of my house for days.
That day I slowly walked a couple of blocks to an appointment with the help of my sharp-pointed walking sticks. After the appointment I met “my hero” Adam, the new (only three months) 26-year-old manager of a local business. He had been shoveling the parking lot in the frigid sleet to make sure the entrance was safe for folks to walk in.
As I was leaving my appointment, he asked if I needed any help. Noticing his giant snow shovel, I half-jokingly said “Yes!” I could barely negotiate my way back—the sidewalk, the driveway, and the street near my house (three blocks away) were all treacherous with ice and snow.
Help from a Stranger
So he walked me home, with shovel in hand, and proceeded to clear my driveway. He spent the next hour and a half on the difficult, sweaty job of shoveling not only my driveway, but the sidewalk and the street nearby. This allowed me to finally open the garage and walk safely to my door. It also helped the postal carrier deliver the mail the next day, as the sidewalk had not been accessible for anyone!
Because we’d been out of power for three days, my food was going bad. So all I had to offer him was a blood orange, which he had never tasted. It was a very small token of gratitude, but he accepted it as graciously as if I had offered him a pot of gold!
I was overcome with gratitude and appreciation for Adam’s kindness and willingness to help. I could tell his efforts were genuine and heartfelt, with no expectation of anything in return, despite my offer to reimburse him. He said he was just happy to be of service and that doing this made a life worth living for him.
Seeing Beyond the Surface
While he worked, I stayed outside and asked him about himself. I was once again struck by how little we know of a person’s “inside” by looking only at their “outside”. Adam was young and looked forbidding in his bulky black outerwear and face mask. All I could see was his eyes. But when I looked into those eyes, I felt his humanity and genuine desire to serve and make a positive difference. We recognized each other as kindred spirits and immediately felt comfortable. All the things that kept us apart fell into the background and our connection and mutual trust took over. I was deeply moved by the power of community to change our world, and my faith in human nature was restored.
He told me he was one of 13 children, a middle child, adopted at birth into this large family. Growing up in Florida, he talked about experiencing trauma during Hurricane Katrina as a young child. He, his mom, his grandma, and his young siblings were trapped for three days in a hallway that was filling up with water. There was no safe way to evacuate. It was terrifying, but he found strength and support in his faith community.
After his family was able to emerge, people brought food, clothing, money and supplies. He had faith and trusted in the power of a spirit greater than himself. He knew at the young age of eight that love is much stronger than fear.
The Power of Kindness
When I went back to his business a few weeks later to “officially” thank him, I learned more about him and his values. Having a learning disability had always made him feel like an outsider. He now appreciates that “we are all like snowflakes”—individually, we are beautiful and unique and we are here to help each other, especially in this difficult time.
There is so much bad news these days, so much healing to be done. Adam restored my faith in human kindness and connection. He gave me hope that we will find a way to hold each other’s hands and create far better ways of being in the world. Yes, love is truly stronger than fear, and we can accomplish miracles together… something we can’t do alone. Be hopeful, be joyful, be grateful. We will get through this together.
Through your kindness to others, your mind and heart will open to peace. ~ the Dalai Lama
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